Flare-Up Plan

girl with painful neckWhat to do when pain increases

Set-backs or ‘flare-ups’ happen to all of us from time to time, no matter how experienced we are in managing our pain. This often happens because of overdoing an activity. When pain flares up it’s helpful to have a plan of action already in place so you will know what to do.

Check out some self-management pain reducing skills, such as Breathing or Relaxation, in the Pain Relief menu. Make some of these techniques part of your  every day ‘Tool Kit’ of pain relief ideas. Take on board even one or two of these valuable techniques and it will help you feel more in control and reduce your pain.

Print this page and place it in a folder as part of your own Tool Kit. Add more notes, ideas and techniques as you go on.


Your flare-up plan

Firstly, don’t panic! Resist being upset or annoyed with yourself.
Take charge of the situation and say to yourself,

“Stop all those unhelpful and negative thoughts”.
“I need to be especially kind to myself now.”
“This has happened before and I know it will pass.”
“I can cope with this situation with some of the pain relief techniques.”

Secondly, your breath is the key to pain relief. Slow, regular breathing from the abdomen is calming and relaxing. It helps to release tension and pain. Try the ‘Pain and Stress Reliever’ technique below.

Pain and Stress Reliever

Stop what you’re doing – bring your attention to your body.
Breathe in gently through your nose right down into your abdomen.
Breathe out gently through your mouth, with a slight sigh.
Imagine all the pain flowing out with your breath.
Notice the release of tension in your body. Relax around your mouth and gently smile on the outbreath.
Enjoy the growing feelings of calm and being more in control.

Take 6-10 slow breaths like this when you feel under pressure from pain or stress.


More ideas

  • Focus on the positive aspects of how to help yourself. Change negative thoughts into positive thoughts. Acknowledge that you may feel bad, but know it will pass and you can cope.
  • Be patient. Stop battling. Accept the situation and allow it to take its course. Go with it… drift through time… time heals.
  • Prioritise your tasks. Pace yourself. Break up tasks into small segments. Rest in between. Cut down activities until the flare-up settles. Be kind to yourself. Say “no” to any excessive demands upon you until you are feeling better.
  • If you feel like crying – cry. Talk yourself through the situation and identify your fears. Write them down and rationalise them. Talk the situation through with a friend who understands pain.
  • Only go to bed if the pain is so severe that you just can’t stay up.Bed rest tends to weaken muscle strength, your pain may be more likely to flare up again faster when you get up again. If you do decide to go to bed for a short while, try some gentle stretching exercises whilst lying in bed. Even wiggling toes and fingers will help a little.
  • Repeat helpful phrases or sayings. Make a list of short helpful phrases, such as “This will pass, stay calm”. Use these affirmations hourly or as often as you feel the need. See the Pain Relief menu above for more information about making affirmations.
  • Have hot baths if they help to ease the pain.
    Use hot or cold ice packs on the painful area if you find them helpful.           Always cover the packs with a towel so you don’t burn your skin.
    Try 3 minutes with the hot and cold packs alternately, using each about 3 times in all.
    Finish with a cold pack if there is inflammation.
    Don’t use cold packs for longer than 15 minutes at a time. And be aware that heat can aggravate an already inflamed joint.
  • Keep as active as you can but don’t be proud, accept any offers of help from family and friends for tasks that increase the pain or that you can’t do for the moment.
  • If you are at home, try to stay involved in the day to day activities in your household, you can be the ‘housekeeper’ and organise things even if you can’t do the tasks for the moment.

NB. It is always advisable to check out any unusual pain with your doctor. Check also that any of the suggested techniques or methods you use are suitable for your condition.


Focus on what you CAN do and not on what you can’t do at the moment.

S – M – I – L – E. When you deliberately place a smile on your lips, even if you don’t feel like smiling, you will pass messages of relaxation and calm around your body and help to release endorphins, your body’s natural pain killers.


After the flare-up has settled

  • Review the flare-up as the pain lessens to learn what you can from it.
  • Find out what you need to adjust or alter to help avoid a flare-up in the future.

Make notes in your Tool Kit folder of effective ways of dealing with future flare-ups. There always will be flare-ups. They are, unfortunately, a fact of life. Now you will be prepared and know how to deal with them!


Pain Logs

Pain Logs. Print as many copies as you need of each log. It’s helpful to complete each record for about a week.   The pain log might be just for your own personal interest or perhaps to show to your doctor/therapist/family/friends to help them understand how your pain affects you personally and how it affects your daily life.

The Pain Levels log below will be a record of your actual pain level.
Pain Levels Log Download PDF

The Pain, Feelings and Activity log below will help you to discover how your activities and feelings may affect your pain.
Pain/Feelings/Activity Download PDF


Useful pages from our website for flare-ups and set-backs

Check out the Relaxation, Visualisation and Meditation pages for pain relief and peace of mind. Explore the Affirmations page.
Find relaxation tracks in our Shop.
Read about dealing with Emotions.
Begin a gentle Exercise regime as soon as you can.
Talk to others and find friends on the Forum and Contact Club page.


Back to top